Fri, 12 May 2017

Rugby: Hong Kong Name Squad Ahead of ARC Home Tie with Japan

After running Japan close last weekend in a 29-17 loss in Tokyo, Hong Kong coach Leigh Jones has stuck with a largely settled squad for this Saturday’s Asia Rugby Championship (ARC) re-match at Hong Kong Football Club.

 Hong Kong held its own against Japan and even rattled the hosts, (11th in the world in the latest World Rugby rankings), at times after achieving parity up front for the first time in recent memory.

The starting forward pack played well in Japan and Jones has rewarded their effort by retaining his starting tight five for the ARC home opener. Ben Roberts will again lead the squad from hooker as captain, alongside props Ben Higgins and Dylan Rogers, who turned in a sterling performance on his Hong Kong debut last weekend.

Originally from South Africa, Rogers played for Western Province, the Griqas and Connaught before arriving in Hong Kong on New Year’s Eve three years ago and joined the HKRU’s Elite Rugby Programme (ERP) in April.

Hong Kong Rugby

“I was really pleased to make my debut. I think in terms of Asian rugby there is no better place to do that than in Japan,” said Rogers. “I’ve been full-time for the last couple of months and one of the benefits of the ERP is that we’re together every day as a squad. It’s been really good getting to know the rest of the players a bit better.”

While getting to know his non-club team-mates has been an early objective, Rogers is familiar with some of his teammates in the squad, including fly-half Matt Rosslee.

“I went to the University of Cape Town with Matt. He and I played more than 50 matches together at uni. It’s the first time we’ve played on the same team since 2009, so it was nice to be able to get my first cap with him on the pitch eight years later.”

A quantity surveyor by trade, Rogers has mapped out Hong Kong’s chances against Japan on Saturday.

“I think we played well in Tokyo overall. We rose to the occasion certainly, but there were moments where we let ourselves down. We dropped our intensity and didn’t follow our processes at times and that cost us. I’m proud of the work we did in the forwards and how we were able to set a good platform. We have been working hard with Leigh and the ERP coaches over the past few weeks on that, but there’s more to the game than just scrummaging. We know Japan will be hurting a bit after last week and we have already heard that they have been focusing a lot on the scrum in their training, so we’re expecting a much tougher challenge. Eliminating those individual errors that held us back last week will be a key to our chances,” he said.

With a collective goal in mind, Rogers is confident that the team can further up their performance.

“I’m quietly optimistic. We know there’s an opportunity for us and that we’re in one of the better positions we’ve been in for a long time, but it will take a full 80 minutes and a lot of individual effort. We have to raise our game another 20% now and we realise that,” added Rogers.

James Cunningham and Adrian Griffiths have also been retained as the starting second row, keeping Hong Kong’s tight five intact as Jones looks to ensure another stable platform at the scrum and line-out.

Hong Kong have made two changes in the forward pack, with starts to experienced flankers Nick Hewson and Matt Lamming, as both teams will be out to recycle possession quickly at the breakdown. Dan Falvey shifts from starting on the flank last week to his customary position of No.8.

There are two further changes in the backline, both in the back three, with Ally Maclay, who came off the bench last week, starting on the left wing, while Alex McQueen returns from a non-rugby injury that kept him out of this year’s Hong Kong Sevens campaign to start at full-back. Salom Yiu Kam-shing (pictured) retains his spot on the right wing. The interior backs remain unchanged with scrumhalf Jamie Hood and fly-half Matt Rosslee returning at the pivot, while centres pairing Lex Kaleca and Tyler Spitz also keep their starting positions.

Jones has again gone with a five-to-three forwards-to-backs split on the reserves bench with up and coming hooker JW Markley coming in for injured squad co-captain Jamie Tsang and prop Jack Parfitt brought into bolster the front row after last week’s substitutions failed to make the desired impact. Prop Angus Dixon and lock Kyle Sullivan, both of whom earned first caps last week, have been named on the reserves bench as has Thomas Lamboley who came on at No.8 last week.

Cado Lee Ka-to is the only remnant of the back reserves from last week’s tie and will be joined on Saturday by winger Charles Higson-Smith and fly-half Ben Rimene, inching closer to full-time action after recovering from an injury sustained in the Hong Kong Sevens.

Japan meanwhile could be looking to ring in more changes with new coach Jamie Joseph continuing to cast his eye over a wide group of players. Press reports out of Japan have the side making eight changes.

Four of those come in the forwards, including swapping out both flankers along with changes at tight head prop and second row. Both starting half-backs from last week have also been moved to the bench with further changes at left wing and inside centre; experienced campaigners Shota Horie and Harumichi Tatekawa have also been rested this week

 Japan will announce its final starting 23 16.00 today.

HKRU Squad for Japan (Match 2, 2017 Asia Rugby Championship)

1. Ben HIGGINS (Valley), 2. Ben ROBERTS (HKCC, captain), 3 Dylan ROGERS (HKCC), 4. James CUNNINGHAM (Kowloon), 5. Adrian GRIFFITHS (HKCC), 6. Nick HEWSON (Valley), 7. Matt LAMMING (HKCC), 8. Dan FALVEY (HKFC), 9. Jamie HOOD (HKFC), 10. Matt ROSSLEE (Valley), 11. Ally MACLAY (Valley), 12. Lex KALECA (HK Scottish), 13. Tyler SPITZ (USRC Tigers), 14. YIU Kam-shing (USRC Tigers), 15. Alex McQUEEN (HKCC), 16. JW MARKLEY (Valley), 17. Jack PARFITT (HKS), 18. Angus DIXON (Kowloon) 19. Kyle SULLIVAN (HKS), 20. Thomas LAMBOLEY (Valley), 21. Charles HIGSON-SMITH (HKFC), 22. Cado LEE Ka-to (USRC Tigers), 23. Ben RIMENE (Valley).

Rugby pictures: Pictures from 2017 Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, Pictures from 2016 Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, Pictures of Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens 2015, Pictures of the Asia Rugby Sevens Olympic Games Qualifier in Hong Kong, Pictures of Singha Thailand Sevens 2015, Pictures from the 2013 British & Irish Lions Tour in Hong Kong, Pictures of Hong Kong Sevens 2014, Pictures of Hong Kong Sevens 2013, Pictures of Chartis Cup 2012 and Pictures of Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens 2012.

See other recent news regarding: Hong Kong, Japan, Rugby.

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